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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Serbia brands journalist as 'spy'
Dragan Kojadinovic
Off air: Dragan Kojadinovic outside the closed Studio B television station, of which he is general manager
While Serbia's closure of opposition and independent television and radio stations hits headlines across the world, there are also less visible forms of pressure being brought to bear on Serbia's journalists.



We are very concerned about the chilling impact on all independent journalists

Anthony Borden, IWPR
The case of Miroslav Filipovic, aged 49, a journalist in the southern town of Kraljevo, threatens to set a precedent whereby independent journalists become branded, or even jailed, as spies.

Mr Filipovic last week found himself in court facing a possible 15-year prison sentence for writing a string of penetrating articles on the Yugoslav military and security services for the London-based Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

One of the stories, based partly on a Yugoslav army intelligence survey, detailed atrocities soldiers committed in Kosovo, and the remorse some of them are now experiencing.

Precedent

All of the reports can be read on the IWPR website.


Miroslav Filipovic
Miroslav Filipovic: hard-hitting reports
IWPR's executive director, Anthony Borden, says the Filipovic case comes after a two-month campaign in Serbia to depict all independent media as foreign mercenaries - because of the work that many of them do for publications outside the country.

"If he were to be convicted of espionage it would set a legal precedent for prosecuting anyone else working for European media," Mr Borden said.

"We are very concerned about the chilling impact on all independent journalists."

Mr Filipovic was seized by security officers on 8 May. They confiscated his computer hard drive, contact book, diary, passport and numerous papers.

Lingering threat

Two days later investigators told the Kraljevo court that Mr Filipovic had "undermined the defence of the country", and the case was referred to a military prosecutor.



It's a nonsense - I'm accused of espionage but I signed my articles and published them

Miroslav Filipovic
On 12 May the military prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to continue, but gave no guarantee that the case would not be re-opened.

IWPR adds that Mr Filipovic could also face charges under Yugoslavia's information law, which it says gives the authorities a "free hand" to impose large fines on journalists.

So, although Mr Filipovic is not in jail he has not escaped the threat of punishment.

Signed articles

"I want to continue to work as a journalist, but it is a slight problem that charges have not been dropped, and proceedings might continue," he told the BBC.

He described his reports for IWPR as factual and non-political, and rejected the charges of espionage as "senseless".

"It's a nonsense. I'm accused of espionage but I signed my articles and published them on the IWPR website," Mr Filipovic said.

"A spy would hide this ... Anyone normal would realise that."

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17 May 00 | Europe
Serbs silence broadcasters
18 Mar 00 | Europe
Serbia clamps down on media
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